Treacherous Orphan Sidewalks

If you have been wondering why you don’t see many people out and about on Edmonton streets, this is the answer. Not everyone shovels their sidewalk.

When the sidewalk is not cleared, it doesn’t take long for the snow to get packed down to create a slippery surface. Those who are afraid of falling, those who need aids to walk, and those who use wheelchairs, simply cannot navigate the hazards. It’s just not worth the risk.

Some shovel, some don’t

I had a bad fall last spring that fractured my wrist and pelvis, and even though I have recovered very well, I still have a fear of falling. It’s not logical, but nevertheless, it is affecting my willingness to venture outside. After returning to Edmonton on Monday I hibernated for a couple of days partly because it was very cold, and partly because of the uncleared sidewalks.

Most home- and business owners are very diligent about making sure they do their civic duty when it comes to snow, but a few do not. Perhaps those homeowners are not resident, or those businesses may have closed and left a building vacant, but whatever the reason I have found in the last couple of days that there are enough unshoveled sidewalk areas to make walking about very tricky.

Packed ice and snow at the end of an alley

The other areas that make walking difficult are at the ends of alleys and at intersections. At the ends of alleys, vehicles drive across sidewalks and bring snow and ice with them. Those actions create another ice field that it is no one’s responsibility to clear. So, they remain to make wheelchair and walker navigation impossible.

At intersections, vehicles brake and accelerate on snow and those actions create ice on the roadway. Those sections become icy lumps that are hard to see and treacherous for pedestrians.

So, while navigating winter weather is hard on everyone, it is sometimes impossible for pedestrians and the disabled. It would be impossible for the city to clear all the sidewalks, and it would be equally difficult to arrange for ownerless stretches to be shovelled. So, lots of people will spend weeks, maybe months, housebound.

If you know someone in that situation, please visit them, offer them rides to run their errands, and maybe even shovel an orphaned stretch of sidewalk. You will make their lives a lot easier.


  1. I think it’s VERY logical to be afraid of falling after taking as serious a tumble as you did! But I love how you turned the dilemma of un-shoveled sidewalks into a plea for your readers to help others who may have mobility issues. What a big heart you have! I hope your neighbors will be more conscientious, and that you’ll get through this winter without further incident.

  2. I’m afraid of falling too. To the point of panic attacks. Every season the fear begins anew and every season I do what I can to fight it back. But its a very real fear, a legitimate one. Our sidewalks and well, overall walking conditions can be terrible and its very dangerous out there. I haven’t had a bad fall like you have but its my worst fear! In Calgary, a gent fell, hit his head and died. There are better ways to go, me thinks 🙂
    I find grippers on my boots and walking poles really helpful. The rest is just courage but still… I’m afraid every time I go out.

  3. The city I live in has an ordinance that owners have to clean the sidewalks within 48 hours of the snow or ice storm. This is only enforced if a property owner is turned in by someone. Our city offices also coordinate volunteers to sign up to clean up sidewalks for homeowners who cannot take care of the sidewalks for which they are responsible. These two approaches help, but not enough that my husband and I could take our 1-2 mile walks safely in our neighborhood. I like your idea of adopting a portion of the sidewalk. I have adopted our high school students’ cement bus stop on our block, as it was built but no one seems responsible for its maintenance.

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